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Business leaders reacted to the tumultuous presidential debate on Tuesday night between President Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., as concerns mounted that a chaotic race to the November elections would add further turmoil to the markets.
Companies big and small have been on a roller coaster as coronavirus cases in the United States have continued to rise, and policymakers in Washington have inspired little confidence that they are ready to pass additional pandemic relief. After reaching a record high this month, the S&P 500 — an indicator of investor and business sentiment — appears poised to close September with a loss, its first monthly fall since March.
The first presidential debate has only added to the risks facing business. Many business leaders were concerned about disruptions to a smooth transition of power if Mr. Trump lost, while others expressed dismay at Mr. Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacy and his suggestion that the Proud Boys, a far-right group, should be prepared to “stand back and stand by.”
“People just want stability, some degree of normalcy,” said Aaron Levie, chief executive of the tech company Box. “We want to understand what the geopolitical landscape looks like, what trade looks like, what immigration looks like. There’s not a clear underlying philosophy that drives this administration, other than nationalism. You just can’t predict the next move.”
Mr. Levie said he was concerned that another term for Mr. Trump would lead to fewer foreign nationals coming to the United States to pursue education and professional opportunities, noting that many of the country’s most successful companies have been started by immigrants.
“We just don’t